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“But when I look back, it seems like I was mostly running on excitement and adrenalin.“I remember being in the wings on the first night of Hamlet for the RSC in 1992, so nervous that my hands were shaking and I thought I was going to vomit. She went to Canada in the Seventies because she simply couldn’t hack being unfairly slagged off.In a direct engagement with his own past, the one-time new Olivier plays the old Olivier, in a comedy that follows the on-set battles between Sir Larry and Marilyn Monroe (played to the sexy-sassy-vulnerable hilt by Michelle Williams) during the making of the 1957 confection The Prince and the Showgirl.The film is based on a memoir by Colin Clark (son of Kenneth, brother of Alan) who, despite his lowly status on set, became Monroe’s confidante as the clash between her Method style and Olivier’s traditional theatrical technique risked derailing the production.

“And there’s a whole bunch of people coming up behind you who are the next lot to annoy.” This is fairly typical of the eloquent locutions that Branagh spins; he has the gift of taking you with him on a train of thought, while also deftly deflecting questions of a more personal or intrusive nature.Too much fear paralyses you.” And what about opprobrium? She said, ‘I’ll tell you what I woke up with — the worst f---ing reviews of my career.At the height of his mid-Nineties’ ubiquity — playing Hamlet, directing himself and Thompson in the noir pastiche Dead Again, directing a remake of Frankenstein and playing the title role opposite Robert de Niro, then moving in with co-star Helena Bonham Carter — the levels of vitriol he attracted were inordinate, even by British standards; one critic wrote that he and Thompson were “determined to shove their gorgeousness down the public’s throats”. Branagh shifts in his chair, hoisting his shoulders into a vaguely combative stance. But the public loved it, and we got on with it.’ “Unfortunate remarks stay with you for a day or two if you admit them,” he adds, taking a sip of tea.“The wonderful advantage of that time was that I was so incredibly busy that I didn’t have time to dwell on it,” he says. “But I’m all for keeping your tears to yourself, on the whole.” Bruised or not, Branagh seemed to take his foot off the gas through the late Nineties and early Noughties.There were films that struggled to make it into art-houses, like a Busby Berkeley-inflected version of As You Like It, and a First World War-set take on The Magic Flute, and while he received good notices for the title role of Shackleton in a 2002 television movie (and married its art director, Lindsay Brunnock), his most high-profile role was as Professor Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

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